Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl


What could be more important than our search for meaning?  At some point in our life, we all ask the question “What is the meaning of life”?  Or maybe we ask, “What can give my life more meaning”?

Man’s Search for Meaning is a book of 2 parts.  The first section gives an autobiographical account of Viktor Frankl’s struggle for survival in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps.  His success in surviving the horror and brutality of this experience can be attributed to his ability to find meaning in his suffering.  Unable to change his situation, he chose to change himself and how he related to the experience.  Despite the fear, disgust, apathy, degradation and utter despair, he tells how “it was possible for spiritual life to deepen”.  He came to the realisation that even if everything else is taken away, the one thing that man cannot be denied is his freedom to choose his attitude in any given situation.  “It is this spiritual freedom – which cannot be taken away – that makes life meaningful and purposeful”.

The second part of the book gives an interesting insight into Frankl’s therapeutic model which he called Logotherapy.  His approach is validated by the account of his survival in Part One of the book.

Frankl wrote the book over 9 successive days and his only objective in telling his story (which he originally wished to be told anonymously) was to convey the message that “life holds a potential meaning, under any conditions, even the most miserable ones”.  He felt his story may be of some benefit to those ‘prone to despair’.  But his message is one that is relevant to everyone who wants to experience a meaningful life, regardless of their circumstances.

I have read this book many times, and each time I am left with a deeper appreciation for Viktor Frankl’s story and the reminder that it is up to each of us to give our life meaning and purpose.  Frankl quotes Nietzsche words “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how”.  That is our responsibility, to find our ‘why’.  Whatever the circumstances, we can choose how we respond.  This is what it means to be free!

“He who has a why to live for, can bear with almost any how“.